Its keen price and sumptuous picture quality make Sony's KDL-40W605 a good buy for those after a high-quality, mid-range TV.
The KDL-40W605 sits towards the bottom of Sony's 2014 line-up of TVs. It's no surprise then to find that it lacks some extra bells and whistles -- it doesn't have 3D support and its motion processing is quite basic too.
It's relatively cheap for a Sony TV though, as you can pick it up for £479, and it still includes Sony's smart TV system as well as its X-Reality Pro processing engine. Its siblings further up the Sony TV chain, such as the W705 and W829 have been impressive in terms of picture quality, so can this cheaper model pull off the same trick?
It's all change for the user interface Sony is using on its TVs this year. Out goes the Metro-style interface from last year and in comes a new layout that's more similar to Samsung's smart TV system. Now when you hit the Home button it calls up a series of Samsung-like pages that you can scroll left and right on to access features such as the smart TV apps, Sony's Video Unlimited on-demand film service as well as the Settings menu.
As with all of Sony's TVs, the settings menu lacks an advanced colour management system, but it still includes more standard controls for colour, contrast and brightness, as well as offering relatively fine control over the X-reality Pro picture processing engine.
If you don't want to dive into the main Homescreen you can also access the Scene modes -- presets covering both picture and sound settings -- or just the picture controls directly, via the Option button on the remote.
Like the W705, this model includes both a standard Freeview TV guide and a fancier Web-enabled guide. The latter isn't worth bothering with though. It may offer you more information on upcoming shows, as it includes metadata on directors and actors, but it's very slow to load.
The standard Freeview guide is much better. It's faster to use -- jumping between channels and shows is speedy -- and the layout is clean and simple. It's annoying that it lacks a video thumbnail window though, as that's something the guides on most other manufacturers' TVs now offer.
One oddity with the user interface, which I've noticed on other recent Sony TVs, is that when it's woken up from a long period on standby it can take several seconds to fully respond to the remote, especially when it comes to loading the smart TV interface or even changing the AV input. It's irritating, as it's not something that affects other big brand TVs.
This year Sony seems to have some objection to building power supplies into its TVs. The W605, just like the W829 and W705, has an external power supply. Sony is the only major manufacturer of TVs that does this and I really can't understand why, as it's a messy approach. The W605 is also slightly chunkier on the rear than the W705, has a wider bezel, and the construction feels a fair bit more plasticky too.
Nevertheless, when viewed from the front it's not a bad looking set thanks to its clean lines and elegant wire-type stand. The stand is also clever because it can double up as a wall mount, although this also means that the TV lacks standard VESA holes, so can't be used with normal wall mount brackets.
Despite the fact that this TV sits nearer the bottom of Sony's line-up, it's certainly not lacking in ports. Around the back you'll find four HDMI and three USB ports as well as a full-sized Scart socket, optical audio output and a set of component inputs. There are both wired and wireless networking options too and the TV supports Miracast so you can mirror Android tablets and smartphones to the display.
This model has a satellite tuner sitting alongside the Freeview HD tuner, but unfortunately this satellite tuner is not Freesat compatible, so it's not all that useful in Blighty -- UK channels are tuned in a random order and the TV guide doesn't populate properly.
For this year's smart TV upgrade Sony has changed the layout of the menus, creating a more page-like structure that's similar to Samsung's system. There's a dedicated page for Sony's Video Unlimited video on demand service for example, as well as the pages for the digital media player and smart apps.
Sony has also added a couple of extra features. There's now a Discover button on the remote that calls up a banner at the bottom of the screen showing you suggested content that you might want to watch. Also new is the Football mode, again accessed via a dedicated button on the remote, that selects audio and video pre-sets designed to show the beautiful game at its best.
The new interface is a big improvement on the one used on Sony's TVs last year, but it's still not as good as Samsung's and neither is the selection of available smart apps. Despite having apps for iPlayer, Demand 5 and Netflix, it lacks support for 4oD or ITV Player. It also sometimes feels a little bit sluggish, especially when it comes to populating content in the Discover bar and when it initially loads the main smart TV menus.
Despite being equipped with Sony's Bass Reflex speakers, the W605 certainly isn't a stand out performer in terms of audio. It can sound a tad brittle in the higher frequencies and its bass is boxy, just like the W705 .
The good news is that its mid-range performance is reasonably strong, so dialogue sounds quite crisp and clean. Sony has also added a few sound processing options to the audio menu, which work well. The S-Force Surround does a good job of expanding the stereo image, while the voice zoom can help lift dialogue further out of the background soundtrack of a movie to make it that little bit more intelligible.
Apart from a misfire at the top of its Full HD range with the W955, the other TVs in Sony's line-up (W705 and W829) have been very impressive when it comes to picture performance. The good news is that the W605 follows this trend. For the money, this TV delivers really excellent pictures.
There are a couple of key reasons for this. Firstly, the set can conjure up very deep black levels, especially compared to many other TVs I've seen around this price. In fact it could give a lot of more expensive sets a run for their money on this front. What's even more impressive is that it does this without having any backlight local dimming system on-board.
My review sample also had very little backlight clouding. So even when watching the screen with the lights dimmed at night, it didn't have the blotchiness and grey patches that affect many LED TVs, especially those at this price.
The set's colour performance was also top drawer, with the Cinema 1 preset looking particular accurate. As a result it's excellent for watching movies on Blu-ray, as it delivers warm, natural colours and despite the fact that it's not the brightest screen around, its colours still have plenty of punch.
The X-Reality Pro engine does a good job of tarting up standard definition pictures without introducing lots of obvious sharpening on the edges of objects onscreen. Broadcast originally shot on video do show some jaggies due to de-interlacing errors if viewed up close, but they're much harder to spot from a normal viewing distance.
Like the W705, this model doesn't have frame interpolation motion processing, which inserts extra frames into the video to deliver less blur. Instead it uses Sony's LED Motion Mode, which strobes the backlight to reduce motion blur. With this turned off, motion resolution is around 300 lines, but with it enabled it jumps to a full 1,080 lines of motion. It's not very useable, however, as it dims the screen too much and adds a lot of flickering on brighter areas of the picture. Even with it off though, motion doesn't look too blurry on this TV. Still, if you want more advanced motion processing you'd be better off with Sony's pricier W829.
Sony's TVs haven't exactly been known for their wide viewing angles in the past, but the W605 is much improved in this regard. In fact, even at a pretty extreme angle, colours and contrast don't shift so much as to be a big problem.
The chassis isn't as slim or as neat as Sony's own W705 -- it's got a weird, external power supply and it lacks fancy extras such as 3D support and advanced motion processing. Nevertheless, the W605 really does deliver in terms of picture quality and that's what really counts. The fact it's keenly priced only adds to its charm. As a result this is a good buy for those after a great mid-range TV.